youth ministry 3.0, part 13

youth ministry 3.0 is the working title of a book i’ve mostly written, which is expected to release this fall. it’s an attempt to name where and how we’re missing the mark in youth ministry, and what needs to change in order to more truly live into our calling as youth workers.

we’ve decided to open up the book a bit and solicit youth worker contributions as sidebar comments, and i’m going to use my blog for this purpose. until late april, i’ll be posting a series of snapshots from the rough draft of the manuscript. i invite lots of comments — questions, disagreements, ideas, very short stories or examples, reflections — which will be considered as additions to the book.

by posting a comment, you are giving permission for your comment, with your screen name, to be added to the print book.

so, here’s the thirteenth bit, from chapter 6:

You’re a youth worker employed by a church, and you have all kinds of competing demands and expectations placed on you if you want to keep your job.

Or, you’re a volunteer youth worker who would love to bring change to your youth ministry, but you have limited time and extremely limited clout.

Or, you’re a senior pastor or other church leader who would love to see your youth ministry move toward Youth Ministry 3.0, but are smart enough to know you can’t just write a memo or demand it and expect real change.

What’s this change going to look like? Assuming some level of agreement with what I’ve proposed in the last chapter, you’ve likely taken off in a plane of thoughts and ideas that are (mostly) at the 30,000-foot level. How to land that plane is a different question.

And, I have to admit: I don’t know. It might be a smooth landing, but I doubt it. I think it’s more likely to be rough and spine jarring. We’re going to have to work this stuff out over years through radical experimentation, glorious failures, unfortunate rabbit trails, ticked off parents, decreasing numbers, and a host of other challenging – but 100% necessary – speed bumps. Speed bumps (or as my friends in the UK call them, speed humps) are needed right now. All those seemingly ugly things I just listed two sentences ago? We need to welcome them. They will provide course correction, refinement, pushback, and creative tension.

One thing I’m sure of: tweaking things won’t get us there. Youth Ministry 3.0 isn’t about making a subtle modification in one of your programs, or adding the words communion and mission to your youth ministry’s mission statement. Real change is absolutely messy. Always.

But which is better: Messy, substantive change, or useless mini-alterations?

I’ll take some stabs at describing some variables of Youth Ministry 3.0, however.

8 thoughts on “youth ministry 3.0, part 13”

  1. I think that the messy and substantive is absolutly necessary and is much better than the useless mini-alterations.

    However, I think most opt and do useless mini-alterations. The screams of do not throw the whole thing out is very loud.

    i think that we are afraid to stand up and admit that we have been wrong. We have made major blunders and errors that have caused us to stray from where God desires and dreams.

    It is time to get messy and make substantive change. The arguments, debates will be “ugly” in seeing what those changes are exactly.

  2. Real change seems to come at moments of crisis.
    Churches don’t seem to be exempt to this.
    Small changes only work when a only refocusing and not overhaul is needed, just make sure your evaultion is correct before you start overhauling things and…
    if your senior pastor and/or church leadership is not on board, you will not come through with a job but if you keep them informed and they sign off and it fits with the vision/direction of the church you and the church will both come out better for it though with a few battle scars.

  3. I think that the struggle that many youth workers, including myself, are having is that we have always been able to look at someone else’s group or read the next new book about the top 10 best ways to build a youth program.

    Where we are going with all this, as you said earlier, is that programs are no longer the answer. I love the idea but I am afraid that too many have used material and program curriculum for so long as a crutch, that they no longer feel comfortable without it.

    In fact, in some of the earlier comments on earlier posts, people even asked “WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE?” The point is that there is no longer “A WAY.” We must simply seek God’s heart and hear from Him on what He would have us do in our own context.

    Our mission statement with our new vision in our youth ministry is to learn to see the world as God sees it, so that we might try to LOVE the world and God LOVES it!

    There are no perfect ways to do this, and they are certainly different in every situation; just like I don’t really have a way of ending this comment, so I just will… :-)

  4. I’m one of those volunteer youth workers. I saw you at YS last fall and found the idea of Youth Ministry 3.0 interesting.

    I also work with Chris who posted above.

    Most churches want their youth seen, paraded but not heard. To change Youth Ministry we have to change the Church and the way it views teens.

    Church members tend to be middle aged (like me) and see teens as rebellious and difficult to deal with. Most of them have not talked to a teen since their child was a teen. Those who have talked to one lately has tried to be hip and come off looking foolish.

    I believe the key to Youth Ministry 3.0 is full engagement of adults and teens with each other in real relationships.

    Each generation can learn from the other. The adults will see new points of view and will become less rigid and more hopeful. The teens will understand the importance of gaining wisdom and perspective from the adults.

    So perhaps, Youth Ministry 3.0 is not the answer, rather it could be Total Ministry 3.0 that moves us nearer to the Kingdom.

  5. Surviving speed “humps” is easier said than done. Real change is going to need to be backed up by those around you and those above you. It would seem to me that it is necessary to paint the picture on the macro for everyone, get their buy-in, then plot the implementation on the the micro. Then when the speed humps come, your not standing alone.

  6. Ministry is not a program or a series of programs. We all know this, but we tend to always be looking for the next big thing in youth ministry (often a program, but sometimes a philosophy). One size does not fit all. I don’t believe one size fits most. Best case scenario, it fits some…maybe only a few.

    Doing ministry in a rural town in the Midwest is not going to look like ministry in another area. Heck, doing ministry in two different churches in the same rural town does not look the same. God made each one of us unique, so why shouldn’t our ministries be unique?

    The way I do ministry may not be THE best way, but I’m using the skills and talents God has given me to disciple the students He has brought me in this place and at this time. For me, as I’m sure is the case for most, ministry changes from year to year.

    Sometimes I think we get too hung up on how we are not doing something “right,” instead of celebrating that we are doing the best we can at what God has called us to do. I praise and thank God that He can use a messed-up person like me to disciple and minister to His children.

  7. There is a difference between changes that should happen and changes that could happen. Just look at the many name alterations a youth ministry goes through over the years and you’ll see an example of this – often it’s less about the need for a change and more about his/her desire to create a clean slate from the last leader. I wonder how much ministry is wasted because we reason the best way to gain trust is by changing logos, vision statements, and stationary.

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